Afghanistan mourns victims of communists


Tue, Oct 01, 2013 - Page 6

Afghanistan yesterday began two days of official mourning for people killed by the communist regime in the late 1970s after a list of thousands of the dead was released.

The names of nearly 5,000 Afghans tortured and killed in 1978 and 1979 by Afghan intelligence officials were published this month by the Dutch prosecutor’s office as part of a war crimes investigation.

The lists have allowed some to discover the fate of relatives who disappeared decades ago, but thousands of other victims of the Soviet-backed communist government are still unidentified.

Ahead of the official mourning, several hundred people including victims’ families held a candlelight vigil on Sunday evening to pay respects to their lost loved ones.

Mahwash Rustami, 43, said she wanted the government to bring to justice those responsible for her brother’s death.

“His name is on the list. He was a science teacher. Unfortunately, he was killed by those people,” she said, holding a picture of her brother.

The Dutch authorities collected the victims’ lists for two years starting in 2010 after questioning Amanullah Usman, a former head of the interrogation unit of the Afghan intelligence agency in the 1970s.

Usman, who sought asylum in the Netherlands in 1993, confirmed that he had signed documents concerning people who were to be executed, according to a statement by the Dutch prosecution office.

He was denied refugee status, but remained in the Netherlands until he died last year.

During the investigation, Dutch police found several witnesses, including a 93-year old woman in possession of a 154-page list in Dari of people who were executed in 1978 and 1979.

In the “death lists,” the executed people were listed with their father’s names, professions, places of residence and charges against them.

The victims, all male, were described as Muslim fundamentalists, intellectuals, students, civil servants, military officials and shopkeepers.

“I have lost 15 friends and three members of my family: my uncle, my cousin and my brother,” 52-year-old Weeda Darwishi said.

The Afghan government said flags would be flown at half-mast across the country yesterday and today.